Setting the scene

I have concentrated on the mainstream Ministries and Agencies that I had the carriage of during my Parliamentary career. Some, for example, the Minister for Defence Support, were in name only and intended to give a message of solidarity to a particular sector. In my case as Chief Minister, when I did something positive for the ADF in support I did so in name as Chief Minister and as the Minister for Defence Support. Some might ask ‘’what’s in a name?’’ I suggest that in this case, a great deal particularly when you are trying to harmonize the relationship between the local Defence establishment and the civilian population. Others were administered across larger portfolios where Departments provided back office support and oversight. These ‘Administrative Arrangements’, as they are known, change depending on the imperatives of the political agenda of the day. For example, the Ministry of Asian Relations and Trade sat in the Department of Industry and Development and, in time, became the main game in that Department. Ultimately, it became a small Agency within the Department of the Chief Minister - a retrograde step in my view.

What follows is a brief overview of my Ministries including those I held as Chief Minister. One thing I got wrong in retrospect was that, when I became Chief Minister, I should have surrendered all my Ministries to my Cabinet colleagues. You can’t be all things and my sole designation should have been simply Chief Minister with the remainder allocated to others. If I had a concern, as I did with Tourism following repeated representations from the industry, it would have been better to have confronted the complaints with the Minister and in Cabinet. My impatience and lack of confidence in some to prosecute their responsibilities at time’s got the better of me. That was a failing on my part.

As a new Minister in the Perron Government starting out in Education was the biggest challenge I ever faced – it was a make or break experience.

1. Minister for Education and the Arts

Minister for Education and the Arts, Minister for Employment and Training, Minister for Public Employment, Minister for the Arts (Fourth Perron Ministry 13 November 1990 to 29 November 1992. From 20 December 1991 Minister for Employment and Training was renamed Minister for Education and Training and Arts became a Ministry in its own right).

Ministerial Staff

At the beginning, my ministerial staff were chosen for me. I was happy about that decision because it meant I didn’t have to entertain the many applications that flowed from my appointment. I had more friends and supporters than I realised and they were all looking for work; in fact demanding a role. The ‘bandwagon’ effect in politics can be an unwelcome human tsunami. Chris Makepeace from the Education Department was appointed my Chief of Staff. I also inherited Tom Harris’s existing staff including his press secretary Cameron Thomson. We have remained lifelong friends.1 Annette Smith had been my secretary at Buckley & Stone and followed me into Government to continue in that role. Elizabeth Eustance remained as the electorate secretary and otherwise, it was a seamless transition.

As Tom Harris2 exited the political stage I picked up the threads as Member for Port Darwin and Minister for Education and the Arts. The script was the perfect launch for a Parliamentary and Ministerial career. I remain enormously grateful to the staff who so graciously welcomed me in place of Tom who they idolized. I have long held that in politics you are only as good as the people around you and in this sense I was blessed from the outset. In time, there would be changes but without rancour. Chris Makepeace was quick to point out that he was there to keep me out of trouble; I recall thinking ‘what does he know that I don’t’.

Getting the Right People

Over time as I found my feet, I had some flexibility on Ministerial staff. I recruited those who shared a passion for education and the vision of reforms that would make a difference to Territory schools. All were senior educationists who had a collective breadth of experience, well respected by their peers and eager to participate - Chris Makepeace, Peter Allen, Kerry Moir (Billy wasn’t keen on Kerry taking the job) and Wally Major among them. As time progressed, they would return to the Department and carry through policy at senior positions. Not all were particularly aligned with the CLP but they did share a passion and belief in schools and teaching. Chris Makepeace in his ABC Guestroom3 appearance in 2012 confirmed that no one ever asked him about his politics - that included me. At the departmental level, Secretary Geoff Spring with my support over time, made new appointments to strengthen the ranks including Michael Fong and Wal Czernezkyi. Kath Phelan was already in a senior position at that time.These appointments were critically important given the challenges I was to be handed as Education Minister. Most importantly, in Geoff Spring, I had a man with a well thought out agenda keen to have a free hand. He was a strong willed big lump of a man with a passionate commitment to better schooling. I was annoyed when Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett poached him from the NT.

The value and importance of dedicated hard working public servants is not to be underestimated. The stereotyping of public servants as overpaid and underworked is wrong. The quality of all Governments is defined by the professionalism of the public service. Low morale equals poor advice, without fail. I never underestimated the importance of the public service role, despite my ever increasing demands. It is true that, on occasion, I wrote on Ministerial files ‘rubbish’, ‘bullshit’ and ‘do it again’. I demanded the best advice at all times - as to whether I followed that advice was a judgement call on my part. There is a fine line between being a hands on Minister who is ultimately responsible to the Parliament, alternatively, abrogating your responsibilities to unelected officers as occurred in the Martin and Henderson Governments from time to time.

Aspiring politicians should never ever underestimate the capacity of the public service to help you through a tight spot. My other advice is do not unilaterally change direction without advice. Public servants invest a good deal of time and energy in helping you get it right as a Minister. For a public servant there is nothing worse than reading or hearing in the media that a Minister has gone off on a tangent. I accepted early on to always take responsibility – if I got it wrong I put my hand up. Easier to seek forgiveness than to try and apportion blame. The Public Service can make or break you, as some have discovered, but they will always respond to strong, decisive and informed leadership. For their part, public servants should never be backward in giving frank honest advice. An officer should be able to have a robust, frank but otherwise respectful discussion with a Minister. Likewise, Ministers would do well to learn to say thank you; an occasional invite to the Ministers office for a drink is more appreciated than most realize. The odd note of appreciation or mention in the Adjournment debate goes a long way. As I commenced in the job I soon worked out that Geoff Spring had his own agenda of reform that strongly mirrored mine so the ‘stars were aligned’.

You’re kidding me?

I was very pleased with my first Ministerial appointment as Minister for Education4 and the Arts given my background but I was soon brought down to earth by Chief Minister Perron and Deputy (also Treasurer) Barry Coulter. Against a background of severe economic pressures and funding constraints I was put on notice that education was to face big cutbacks. The expectation explained to me in the most unequivocal terms was that I was to come back to Cabinet with a shopping list of savings. I was to consider whatever it took - school closures, increased ratios and class sizes, cutbacks in head office and discretionary expenditure capped with an increased efficiency dividend. In a nutshell I was to contribute over 5 percent to the overall savings. I remember I recoiled in horror.

I asked Perron “Is this a test?” the Chief Minister responded “No, it’s a job”. I looked at the smirk on Coulters face and thought to myself “Pigs arse, it’s a test alright”.

The bubble of my initial excitement at being appointed to Cabinet was well and truly pricked and I left the meeting a little downcast yet determined to make a decent fist of it. I hadn’t worked so hard to get to where I was to fall at the first hurdle. I resolved to find a way through and I did.

Getting on with it

For a former teacher, what was being asked of me ran contrary to much of what I believed to be sound education policy. Were it not for Geoff Spring I would have struggled. Together we set about the challenge; for every public announcement, I fronted the cameras which in time would contrast sharply with the Martin Government’s practice of sending out a consultant when they had controversial issues in education. I attended every school meeting stepping up to the mark without exception and decided I would own the decisions and not hide behind the public service. I met with parents, teachers and weeping children distraught about their school closure. I was abused, accused and ridiculed as I made my way around the Territory implementing the reforms. Posters lampooning my efforts appeared in schools and around the streets.

Poster, one of a number, distributed to schools by the Australian Education Union under the nom de plume 'Educators for Change' an alliance between the AEU and Territory Labor.

The Secretary of the Teachers Union, Mark Crossin (husband of ALP Senator Tricia Crossin), presented me with a set of the posters; he thought I might like them for posterity (see Archives Documents). Amidst all the controversy, I also saw opportunities to recast the way schools functioned in the NT. I resolved out of the turmoil I would build a better school system, one that served Territorians with greater efficiency and more measured outputs. Territory Labor in the meantime were unrelenting. Every question time for months was dominated by school closures, class sizes and on-going upheaval in the school sector. Mick Palmer once inquired how I was going - one of the few and not forgotten. Among parliamentary colleagues there is intense competition and a prevailing ‘dog eat dog’ sentiment bubbling below the surface. It was exhausting but the look on the faces of other colleagues suggested they were pleased it was someone other than them having the blow torch applied.

School closures cartoon featuring Shane Stone and Labor Leader Brian Ede. Colin Wicking cartoonist NT News. Copyright to News Limited.

I was also one for instant action best evidenced by my visit to the Borroloola School in September 1995. The heat was unbearable. I walked into the preschool area and just about fell over. Turn on the air-conditioner I bellowed. Unbeknown to me, preschools as a matter of policy were not air-conditioned in the NT. That policy changed there and then. Geoff Spring indulged my demand notwithstanding some misgivings. Gerry McCarthy, the School Principal who went on to serve as the Member for Barkly and Minister in the Henderson Labor Government, learnt something about me that day.

I had a practice of visiting schools unannounced much to the irritation of the Department. Such visits also infuriated some principals. They required a weeks notice to have the school ready for the Ministers visit. I am reminded of the Fred Hollows advertisement where he says words to the effect, every eye operation should be treated as though it is on the King. If I might paraphrase Fred, every school should, every day, be ready for a Ministerial visit. Sometimes, however, you trick yourself - it was at Mataranka while driving to Tennant Creek unaccompanied that I called at the school. I sat talking to the teacher about all manner of things when she interrupted the conversation to ask a question: “It’s nice to chat but who are you?’’ It was at the height of the school closures and my face was plastered over the TV news most nights. Other principals welcomed the impromptu visits - they saw the advantage of capturing the Minister’s attention in the absence of Departmental advisers participating in a sanitized stage managed event.

Opportunity for Reform

From adversity comes opportunity and so it was that an opportunity presented for real reform in the NT school sector. In Their Own Words I wrote:

“As a former primary school teacher I had views about how the system could be improved; most teachers do. Given the Education budget is finite and the pressures of an ‘efficiency dividend’ real, I was first confronted by school closures; all were necessary given falling enrollments. This was a traumatic introduction to the Ministry and not one that I had on my ‘bucket list’ in education. To be frank I was traumatized by the whole experience however such was occurring elsewhere under both Liberal and Labor Governments hence at the Ministerial Council level there was mutual support and understanding. Having survived school closures and revised teacher student ratios I was able to return to my Agenda”.

My reform agenda included Executive contracts for Principals; I had long subscribed to the belief that schools are only as good as their leadership. I funded earned study leave for teachers linked to higher remuneration; I was confident this policy would add to retention of teachers and encourage better performers (it also helped underpin enrollment at the NTU in teacher education at the graduate and post-graduate level). Through the Schools Devolution Package, we gave a greater say to school communities – principals, teachers and parents. The current Commonwealth proposal on empowering local school communities is not new. The Territory led the way on devolution, subsequently picked up by other States particularly Victoria, particularly after Geoff Spring got his feet under the desk as Premier Kennett’s new man. This policy dovetailed with my assessment that parents needed to take back responsibility for their children instead of pushing the role onto teachers and schools. As a parent and former teacher, I strongly subscribed to the belief that parents had a dual role to play in a partnership with teachers. This commitment led to the pilot program Parents as Teachers at Moulden School. I advocated an ‘uncluttered curriculum’ (I can still hear Dr. Harry Payne’s groans) concentrating on core subjects that dealt with competencies and a negotiated accommodation with a foreshadowed National Curriculum push allowing maximum flexibility (I had experienced too many children adversely affected by interstate moves and the situation was only going to be exacerbated by the Defence build-up in the North).

With Vice Chancellor of the then Northern Territory University (NTU), Professor Mal Nairn, I worked to free up the pathways in post school education and championed a post-secondary institution where you could go from plumber to post-doctoral fellow.5 I was influenced in my thinking by an assignment I had undertaken before coming to the NT when appointed in 1979 the Executive Assistant to the Justice Austin Asche SJ6 who completed an Inquiry into Teacher Education in Victoria. His Report touched on the importance and flexibility of teachers being able to seamlessly move along the pathway of upgrading qualifications without the usual roadblocks. This timely intervention in my professional development 10 years earlier was to play an important role in my thinking. My overriding goal was to grow capacity in professionals and in the schools. Increased capacity makes for greater productivity which benefits all, particularly the students.

Leadership - School Principals matter

I had long held the belief shared by many in education that a school and its outputs can be judged by the quality of the school leadership. Why would it be otherwise? A school was foremost a center of learning but it was also a business dealing with public funds. Why would the taxpayer not expect a school to run efficiently with the resources available; why would we not demand accountability and transparency in the way funds were expended - why wouldn’t Government entrust the school leadership to have a say in who was employed? These were among the many questions exercising my mind but they all turned on trusting the Principal in conjunction with his local community to be truly in charge - a Chief executive officer with a Board. The notion of executive contracts for principals was conceived. I was the first to concede that many schools were well run. Our NT principals were, in the main, as good as anywhere else in Australia - that wasn’t just the rhetoric. I had been around long enough to make such an assessment. The performance of principals like Henry Gray at Karama, Wal Czernezkyi in Katherine, Gerry McCarthy in Borroloola and Wally Major at Parap bore out the claim and this was by no means an exclusive list. The length and breadth of the Territory, we had outstanding principals matched by dedicated staff, many of whom taught in the most challenging of circumstance. That said, we could do better and lift the performance overall but it required three elements – trust, empowerment and remuneration to match. To this day, the Australian Education Union still don’t seem to understand that the magic bullet is not just more pay.

Growing the Private Sector

I championed choice in schooling with increased grants to Church and private schools. I also reformed the way the Catholic Mission Schools were funded. In 1993 the Northern Territory Government on my recommendation gifted the former Government run Yirara College in Central Australia to the Lutheran Church through the Finke River Mission despite the outrage from the ALP and their fellow travellers. Twenty three years on, Yirara College is a successful boarding facility for Aboriginal children from remote communities where at least half of the Governing Council consists of representatives from Aboriginal communities.

I did not take a step back in supporting Essington School (Pre-School, Primary and now Secondary), St. Phillips Alice Springs, St Johns Darwin and Kormilda College. A number of private Christian Schools started to emerge in the NT. All were welcome and encouraged subject to meeting the threshold of mandated standards. I was reminded recently of events surrounding St. Phillips in Alice Springs. In 1995, as Chief Minister I met with Headmaster Chis Tudor and Jan Heaslip who was the College Council Chairman to discuss their plans to fund the College’s continuing development. I had a huge regard for both; I rated Jan Heaslip as one of the stand out individuals I had ever come across in her relentless support for St. Phillip’s and the Isolated Children’s Parents Association (ICPA).7 They were aiming to raise $1 million dollars and wanted the NT Government to match their efforts dollar for dollar. With Jan involved I should have seen it coming, instead she beguiled me into agreeing even though they would struggle to achieve the target. I had become quite adept at persuading community organisations and schools to embrace the dollar for dollar formula as evidence of a real partnership with Government. I can remember thinking that if they managed to raise even half that amount they would be doing exceptionally well, so agreed. I underestimated their persistence and determination as well as the community’s resolve to make it happen - I was glad to be proved wrong. That was $2 million dollars added to the Alice Springs economy and I happily presented the cheque. In 1998, I attended the opening of the opening of the Minnamurra Hall and was very pleased to have struck the bargain. The school continues to go from strength to strength and this year 2014, St. Phillip’s mark their 25th Anniversary as a boarding school. I am proud to have been part of their journey.

I remain a strong believer in choice. The private school sector, whether it be modest parish schools or ‘highbrow’ private schools, for parents it should be about an informed choice in schooling. Territorians can be proud of their non-Government schools - most importantly on ‘my watch’ for the first time parents had real choice. If they wanted to stay in the State system that was their call, it was their choice.

Remote Area Education

The vast majority of the Territory is remote - there are big distances between urban centers and Aboriginal communities. The NT comprises 1.34 million square kilometers including 13,387 square kilometers of islands, a number of which are occupied by indigenous communities. As I like to remind friends overseas - the NT is twice the size of Texas. Such remoteness and vast landscape set in an unforgiving climate ranging from monsoonal to desert brings enormous challenges. Building a health clinic in country Victoria is not quite the same when it comes to a remote NT community. Western Australia and Queensland are bigger again and with larger populations yet they face the same challenges.

Cattle Stations tended to home educate, at least to primary school level; some helped establish small schools attended by the station kids and the local Aboriginal children, for example, the Newcastle Waters Station. The Schools of the Air – Alice Springs and Katherine - played a vitally important role in educating young Territorians in remote areas through the generations. I worked closely with the Isolated Children’s Parent’s Association in the NT (ICPA) to deliver better outcomes. I couldn’t agree to all that was lobbied for but I hope, in looking back on my time, those I worked with agree we did better. The late Chrissie Holt, Jan Heaslip, Val Dyer and Carol Armstrong were foremost in those representations.

There was a larger constituency in remote areas that were not being dealt the same cards as urban Territorians - indigenous children largely of Primary school age. These schools were divided between State and Church, the latter known as Mission Schools - foremost Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church. In times past, a number of communities had invited the Missions to leave; in my assessment a tragic mistake driven largely by the ‘new missionaries’, the white advisers. As a first step I reformed the way the Catholic Mission Schools were funded. One of my first Ministerial Statements dealt with the politically-driven inequities In the Commonwealth Disadvantaged Schools Program8 (see Archives Documents search Ministerial Statements).

The Commonwealth Program was another example of the Federal Government of the day delving into policy to the detriment of the people they purported to help - add that to the long list of Commonwealth interference by Ministers and officials who don’t have the management of single school under their collective federal belts. This is the problem regardless of political colour where Federal Education Ministers who don’t run a single school wield the cheque book to achieve policy outcomes that fit their political agenda and not necessarily the people they intend to benefit.

For all those Australians banging on about Gonski I wonder how many have actually read the Report and understand the funding (and at the expense of which sector). Minister Pyne was right to ask the question and ‘pull stumps’. For the record, ‘I don’t give a Gonski’ but I do care about how we resource our schools - State and private. Also, we don’t need another round of Committees and COAG deliberations to tell us what we already know.

One of the great challenges of remote indigenous education is school attendance. Many Territory Governments have struggled with persuading Aboriginal parents and children to value a white mans education. That is not a criticism but rather an observation that remains an insurmountable hurdle to this day. In the main, whitefellas have little comprehension about the complexities of blackfella culture. In my sociology studies I learned that ‘culture is everything we have think and do’; the recurring mistake is to look through a white European prism and expect traditional Aboriginals to do likewise. Learning the basic competencies of reading, writing and arithmetic is important to us; learning the ceremonies and stories are of equal importance to indigenous children. Added to that, English is not the first language of many people and some reside within communities that are dysfunctional with seriously disrupted home environments and you have all the makings for failure. To cap it off, expectations are rarely realized - we extol the virtues of a white man’s education and make false promises about jobs. Not unreasonably many a young Aboriginal asks ‘‘Why bother’’. There are some scary parallels with the rascals of Papua New Guinea where dis-empowered indigenous youth betrayed by an education system have taken matters into their own hands.

Geoff Spring and I spent a great deal of time exercising our minds about the challenge of indigenous schooling. To make the point I spoke regularly in the Adjournment Debate about such and related matters. Long before my time, successive CLP Ministers had worked to craft policy to deliver improved education out-puts among indigenous children. It was clear to me that Government alone was not the answer - the Mission Schools consistently achieved greater attendance. This was largely because of the working partnership between parents, teachers and the Church and the way they accommodated culture along the way. I believed if we could replicate the same with the Government in the mix we might make progress and I was not alone in that thinking. I continued to enforce the policy rigorously, that school funding was on the basis of attendance and not enrollment. Our political opponents railed against this approach as teachers with ‘phantom’ classes were withdrawn from communities; this also had an impact on the employment of local teachers’ aides. The message was clear - work together and get the kids to school and you will be funded and supported. The improvement in a number of communities was very noticeable.

Teachers, nurses, and doctors who work in remote communities are all heroes - no more difficult assignment is on offer in Australia. The recent commitment of the Abbott Government to recruit 400 truancy officers in Aboriginal communities to improve school attendance is commendable but only part of the jig saw. Perhaps the $28 million might have been better spent incentivizing teachers and communities to deliver the same outcome.The program deserves a chance and to give him his due Nigel Scullion has worked diligently and consistently in Opposition and Government to make a difference. He has sought the considered advice from the people best able to guide him in a very challenging and difficult portfolio - indigenous Australians. Scullion has largely picked up where Mal Brough, a truly outstanding and committed Minister, left off.

Vocational Education and Training

We committed to a National Vocational Education and Training Scheme championed by then Federal Education Minister John Dawkins. I set about establishing the NT Employment and Training Authority and delivered a Ministerial Statement ‘A New Era In Vocational Education and Training’ on 26 February 1992. I was supported by the NT Chamber of Commerce, a number of their constituent arms and ably assisted by businessmen Peter Brown, Doug Phillips and Andy Bruyn. I couldn’t have done it without them.

A number of my colleagues were ‘lukewarm’ about the policy but it dovetailed neatly with Northern Territory University (NTU) programs so I got my way, albeit it reluctantly. John Dawkins wasn’t the best salesman but his heart was in the right place. I had my share of arguments with him on other matters and on occasion joined with my South Australian counterpart ALP Minister Mike Rann to run the arguments. It was an unholy alliance at time joined by WA ALP Minister Kay Hallahan, an old style ‘leftie’ who turned out to be one of our most reliable allies when it mattered.

In the round John Dawkins was a very good Federal Minister and was always receptive to Territory issues. Dawkins understood the imperative of building a national skill set; not everyone should go to university. His restructuring of higher education wasn’t universally welcomed nor the introduction of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) however, he was a reformer whether you disagreed with him or not. Likewise, Minister David Kemp showed a vital interest in Territory schooling and our university. David was very understated, measured and thoughtful. He was one of the few real intellectuals in the Howard Government which should not have come as a surprise given his back-ground. I think at times he was a bit bemused by us Territorians and our style. Kemp was very supportive of our higher education aspirations; I sensed Dawkins was also but Keating had long had another view although he relented a little towards the end. David Kemp’s legacy in education included policies on school funding which the NT directly benefited from, university deregulation and national literacy testing.

Menzies Centre for Health Research and the Northern Territory University (NTU)

I also carried responsibility for NTU (now Charles Darwin University) and the Menzies Centre for Health Research, Australia’s only medical research institute dedicated to improving indigenous health and well being. Established in 1985, it is now part of CDU within the Institute of Advanced Studies. A sensible arrangement formalized by the Martin Labour Government in 2004. I enjoyed a good working relationship with successive Directors including Professor John Matthews who accompanied me on a number of trade delegations. Under the capable Chairmanship of Dr. Val Ashe, an eminent medical researcher in her own right, Menzies was left pretty much to their own devices. As Minister I had complete confidence in the Board and supported them where I could. I was most appreciative of the interest shown by Menzies in the cerebral malaria initiatives we funded in three of the Eastern Provinces of Indonesia. I understand the funding for that program was ultimately withdrawn by the Labor Government.

The University was born against a background of Federal Labor intransience. Why would Territorians want their own university Keating once asked of me. I shouldn’t have been surprised by that question in retrospect since it came from a person who preferred self-education to a tertiary education. Keating, for his own reasons, never saw the merit in obtaining a university education. That hasn’t stopped him accepting Honorary Doctorates in Laws from Keio University in Tokyo (May 1995), the National University of Singapore (September 1999) and the University of New South Wales (April 2003) and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Macquarie University in Sydney (April 2012). At least he has observed the long honoured convention of not using the appellation ‘Dr’. As Federal Treasurer Keating was a major obstacle and Hawke decidedly indifferent, it would take some time before Federal Labor came on board. At the beginning, the CLP Government provided all the funding. Tom Harris’s commitment, perseverance and determination to make it work, remain a tribute to his vision and leadership. We were also lucky in securing Professor Mal Nairn for a period as our Vice Chancellor. Mal did all the heavy lifting at the coal face to set NTU on the correct pathway.

Good policy and strong leadership always wins out

I observed a very important lesson out of this period and would urge all Territory politicians to heed the story. It’s timely given the ongoing public discourse in the NT over changes in the education portfolio, power prices and the future of Power and Water. Many predicted that I would not survive the turmoil in education, I would lose my seat in the next general election and that my leadership ambitions were in tatters. Three years on I was Chief Minister, two years later I scored one of the most decisive General Election results in NT history. The political lesson is front up, run the arguments, seek understanding, be empathetic, not unreasonable and forgiveness invariably follows.

Politicians have a duty to lead - not follow.

Don’t confuse competency with popularity. If the challenges presented to me on becoming Education Minister was a test it proved to my colleagues that I could take the heat and win the day.

2. Minister for Public Employment

Minister for Public Employment (Fourth Perron Stone Ministry 13 November 1990 to 29 November 1992)

I was Minister for Public Employment for a little over 2 years. This was a benign portfolio mainly because I had in David Hawkes a Public Service Commissioner8 I trusted explicitly; competent, capable and not backwards in giving advice. We still had our arguments and disagreements but nonetheless invariably achieved a consensus. He had all those attributes a Minister should promote in their senior public servants in particular the confidence to give frank advice. Ideally, the Secretary of the Department of Chief Minister, Under Treasurer and Public Service Commissioner should never take a backward step; it also helps if they are aligned to the Governments political agenda. These are the three positions that are usually subject to ‘political’ appointment. I never thought David was a true believer in the CLP but he was ‘old school’ and served the Government of the day to the best of his ability. He knew and understood the Perron Government agenda and got on with it. In the early 90’s the NT was under considerable financial pressure and this in turn impacted on public service numbers. To give him his due he managed us through a number crisis points and, as Minister, I followed the script.

In this portfolio I had the carriage of some pioneering legislation including the NT’s first Anti-Discrimination Act enacted in 1992. David was very pro-active in providing NT public servants with opportunities to expand their professional development and qualifications.9 It is evident from the website (see Archives Images) he involved me in numerous graduation ceremonies; all good for public service morale as well as building a greater skill set to better serve the NT. He was also a first class negotiator when it came to dealing with the unions. As Minister I mouthed the rhetoric and David did the heavy lifting.

In the portfolios that followed, and as Chief Minister, I would continue to have an on-going relationship with David Hawkes as his responsibilities were, in effective, the whole of Government.

A final observation about the role of the public service in the Territory today at the senior level is that of the past decade the mandarins have largely called the shots. To borrow from Paul Keating when in Government you are in power so learn to exercise it. As a Minister the head of your department reports to you, not the other way round. As the Labor Governments preceding it the CLP Government has not come to terms with being in power and it shows.

3. Attorney General

Attorney General (Fifth Perron Ministry 30 November 1992 to 15 September 1993. Hon Daryl Manzie appointed Attorney General 8 to 13 April 1993 and 29 April 1993)

Attorney General (Fifth Stone Ministry 15 September 1997 to 31 May 1998. Sixth Stone Ministry 12 June 1998 to 18 October 1988. Seventh Stone Ministry 19 October 1998 to 7 December 1998. Eighth Stone Ministry 8 December 1998 to 8 February 1999)

I was the first barrister to serve as the Attorney in the Territory’s brief history. In fact the first law graduate to be elected to the NT Legislative Assembly. Further, I had served as Associate to the Honourable Sir Edward Woodward AC OBE10 in the Federal Court of Australia. During that time I travelled Australia extensively with Justice Woodward as Royal Commissioner into the Australian Meat Industry and later following his return to the Federal Court in Melbourne. He also held Commissions in the NT and ACT and I was with him when he presided in those jurisdictions. I understood the lonely and at times isolated life of a Judge. I had a clear understanding of the respective roles of the Executive and First Law Officer and the judiciary. One might say I was well prepared for the role I was about to embark upon, schooled in the sensitivities of what can arise in the normal course of business. Many in the profession initially welcomed my appointment. That somewhat changed over time; vested interest is a great motivator when challenged.

My first term of service as the Attorney during the Fifth Perron Ministry was beset by the Liddle Affair and when it came for Marshall Perron to re-shuffle for the Sixth Perron Ministry I very reluctantly agreed that the role of the Attorney was proving a major distraction. I parked my ambition for another day. The new portfolio of Asian Relations and Trade was designed to keep me busy. There was also an expectation that I would pay closer attention to Mines and Energy.

Following the General Election 1997, I reclaimed the portfolio in four successive Stone Ministries. When I took the portfolio from Dennis Burke after the General Election he threatened to resign and it remained a point of contention between us. His reaction, given I had just led the CLP to a crushing electoral victory, was disproportionate and ignored the fact I had an entitlement to select whatever portfolio I chose. In my view, he had become far too cozy with the profession who in time turned on him. Dennis resumed the portfolio when elected Chief Minister, as was his right. As I have already conceded, ideally the Chief Minister should concentrate on being head of government and divest all other responsibilities however, I had some unfinished business on the law and order front and I wasn’t confident anyone else would prosecute what I had in mind with the same fervour.

One has two options as the Attorney General – maintain the status quo and have a quiet life or be a reformer and act in the ‘public interest’. The current QLD Attorney, Jarrod Bleijie, is a reformer and the electorate will reward him for his courage notwithstanding that the profession will condemn him for crossing the line (that is, their line). The problem lies in the disconnect between the profession, and the public. It’s worse when it comes to magistrates and judges. We all laugh at the lawyer jokes and console ourselves that the public don’t understand that we are the guardians of their freedom and well being, and know best. The public simply don’t believe in us, the lawyers, anymore.

The legal profession and judiciary tend to lose sight of the fact that the public want confidence in the legal system and no amount of running ‘judicial independence’ and ‘separation of powers’ up the flagpole will placate them. Fuelled by media commentary and at times unrestrained ill considered social media there is serious threat to our judicial system. Unfortunately, those who should be paying attention are not. It comes down to a failure to communicate.

Reforms on my watch included establishing an Office of Courts Administration, introduction of mandatory sentencing for property crimes,11 redefining sentencing for capital offences, formalizing strong Government support for an independent Territory Bar, financially supporting the NT Law Society and expanding the jurisdiction of the Local Court.

Barrister George Watkins and Attorney General Shane Stone Supreme Court Darwin circa 1995

Some of my policies were welcomed by the profession. For example, as the Attorney General, I consistently promoted good governance and rule of law in the Asia Pacific region.12 I facilitated the establishment of the LAWASIA Secretariat in Darwin displacing Perth Western Australia. LAWASIA was lost to Queensland during the Martin Government who withdrew support in a short sighted decision that underscored the disengagement of the Northern Territory with the region at that time. I was made an Honorary Life Member of LAWASIA in 1996 in recognition of my support and commitment to the ideals of LAWASIA.

On another front, I responded positively to suggestions of the Law Society to tidy up certain legislative anomalies. I did that progressively, often accelerating amendments through the legislative program. Further, I entertained proposals in relation to the independent Bar although some solicitors were unhappy with my alignment which should not have come as a surprise given my antecedents as a member of the Victorian Bar. I gave strong financial and in kind support to the NT Law Society and supported the overhaul of the disciplinary proceedings that I had fallen foul of in the Liddle matter. In time I privatized much of the legal work of the Department of Law and, in the case of counsel, directed a ‘buy local’ policy where possible. So-far so good but then I crossed ‘their line’. Responding to concerns in the Department of Law and complaints from the public and profession about tardy judgments, I flagged a Judicial Commission. Over time this was watered down and morphed into an Office of Courts Administration that had a broad brief of fiscal accountability. I also started to impinge on the sentencing discretion of the courts. First, ‘life means life’ followed up by mandatory sentencing for property crimes. Much of this time overlaps my term as Chief Minister and has been commented on widely. All can be found in the Archives section of the website. I have not been backward in defending my mandatory sentencing policies which the CLP had a clear mandate following the 1997 General Election; this appeared to be lost on Dennis Burke. He should have stayed the course and stared down the usual suspects and those in the Federal Parliamentary Wing of the Liberal Party who agitated Prime Minister Howard over the issue. Had he bothered to pick up the phone to me as the Federal President of the Party I was more than capable of dealing with the protagonists.

Nowadays, mandatory penalties populate the statue books at a Federal and State level so in that sense our early reforms in the Territory were in hindsight somewhat unremarkable. I regret we did not go further and, at the very least, apply the measures to violent assaults. Anyone living in the NT today and reading of the alcohol fueled assaults on our streets, and violence against women and children on Aboriginal communities, would understand why. What we read about is not an aberration, it is endemic and growing. I have heard the argument that punishment must “fit both the offence and the offender”. The sad fact is (and not only in the NT), in times past people felt more safe and secure than they do today. I know from political party polling over 20 years, that is fact. Some members of the judiciary would benefit from anonymously sitting in on a few focus groups to get the flavour. The irreconcilable quandary is that victims particularly, and the community generally, want retribution and punishment. The other side of the equation presses the argument for crime prevention and rehabilitation; they argue that punishment fit both the offence and the offender. Both are arguable – it’s how you get the balance right. The person who has been glassed in an unprovoked attack or the family whose house has been trashed or car stolen are understandable not much interested in light sentences or restorative justice.

Whilst my mandatory sentencing policies led to a tumultuous relationship with the legal profession and, at times, the judiciary I never questioned the latter’s commitment and dedication. Judges and Magistrates can’t answer back; they don’t have the luxury of being able to respond line by line to media comments and nor should they. Hence, when the judiciary attempt to speak to the community those who disagree should engage on the arguments and not play the man. I understood the importance of not undermining the public’s confidence in the Court system. Judges and Magistrates all have their personal foibles and failings - no one is perfect.

I embarked on mandatory sentencing because I formed a view long ago that Judges and Magistrates are generally caring and compassionate people who at times are persuaded on sentence in a way that victims and observers don’t understand or accept. It is the role of defence counsel to get the best result they can for their client; prosecutors are there to argue the contrary within a framework of fairness. The accused is, after all, innocent until proven guilty and on sentence pleas of mitigation have become a serious well paid art form. Sometimes a spectacular result for the defence is more a consequence of sloppy and inept prosecution rather than ‘Perry Mason’. With all these variables in the mix a truly perverse result will always capture the inevitable headline.

The Judiciary has, for good reason, in the past jealously guarded their sentencing discretion and I took it away on property offences. Put another way, my Government set minimum penalties regardless of the circumstances. One incontrovertible fact was that the majority of property offences were being committed by the same people over and over again; once we quarantined such offenders we started to win the battle. Ever so occasionally someone would come along who had an unblemished record, as harsh as it was the same applied and included the son of one of my Cabinet colleagues. Let me debunk once and for all that this was about locking up Aboriginals. In fact go compare the incarceration rates of indigenous Territorians under Labor from 2001 to 2013 compared with the preceding 27 years of CLP administration. Mandatory sentencing was about stopping the crime perpetrated by black and white - no exceptions. I strongly endorsed zero tolerance and I should have gone further.

The real villains in the debate are those politicians in Government who sit mute terrified of the issue; they will mutter something around election time but predictably do nothing. Parliament is paramount and Magistrates and Judges apply the law as legislated. There is little point belting them on sentencing if the Parliament is prepared to leave ‘the bench’ to their own devices within the framework of existing legislation and sentencing guidelines. To put it crudely, I took the view that the buck stopped with me the Chief Minister and my Government. When I reflect back what is important in all of this is that as a community we get the balance right and that can only be achieved if the judiciary are cognizant of public sentiment and Governments have the courage of their convictions to respond to public expectations for a safer, more secure community. The “we know best” sentiment doesn’t wash in a society where people are better informed and attuned to social issues than ever before. Many, particularly victims and their families, struggle with the ideal of an unfettered sentencing discretion and therein lays the problem. If the legal profession and the judiciary don’t start to work constructively with Governments to find that elusive balance then expect more of the same as we are witnessing in QLD.

Attorneys General swanning around the NT Criminal Lawyers Association at the biennial ‘Bali Conference’ listening to speeches about the ‘overarching trend of removing judicial discretion’ sends the wrong message to a community that has a crisis of confidence and had a gutful of what they perceive as ‘soft’ sentencing. I consistently refused invitations to attend the Conference and sponsorship requests. I believe Fred Finch may have gone once out of curiosity. Government lawyers who sought to attend were supposed to pay their own way on their own time but I suspect that didn’t always come to pass. What Judges and Magistrates did was beyond my control. I often wondered if any of the Judges and Magistrates who attended stopped to think what message it sent to the NT public when media coverage showed them in company with the Criminal Lawyers Association. How is it that lawyers were always quick to lecture me that perception equals reality yet when it came to them it was different? The public is suspicious enough about the relationship between the profession and ‘the bench’ without adding to it. Try running the arguments with the lay public about the very important role that defence counsel play in a functioning democracy to afford all accused a defence without fear and favour and the eyes glaze over. Many lawyers just don’t get it and worse they don’t care. Far too many are aloof, detached and exude an arrogance that erodes public confidence and sadly on appointment feel duty bound to detach themselves further from the community they serve.

I was encouraged to read in the Brisbane Courier Mail an Opinion piece by Chief Justice Paul de Jersey AC ‘Justice is still chief priority’.13 I am certain there are many issues on the administration of the law we might disagree on but his comment:

‘’The people of Queensland are the fortunate beneficiaries of a well-resourced and stable judicial system free of corruption. Occasional robust exchanges do not erode that stability. Rather, they corroborate it. Judges should not be troubled by public commentary. They should welcome it. It shows that people are interested in how this branch of government independently discharges its duty, and that citizens will exercise their right to question and call to account’’.

A correct, timely and calming observation by the Chief Justice. I was particularly pleased that the Chief Justice made the point that the judicial system is a ‘‘branch of government (that) independently discharges its duty’’. This nonsense that the Courts and judiciary are somehow detached from Government, a silo in their own right is consistently overstated. The Chief Justice’s Northern Territory counterpart Trevor Riley has also sought to engage the wider community while explaining and defending the role of the judiciary. Others who retreat into their cloistered surrounds and say nothing could learn a great deal from both.

There was further controversy over the appointment of Hugh Bradley as Chief Magistrate subsequently upheld unanimously by the High Court of Australia. The attack on the Chief Magistrate was an extension of the mandatory sentencing controversy as public funds intended for Aboriginal legal aid were wasted in pursuing a case without merit. The allegation centered on whether or not Bradley was on a contract rather than a fixed term appointment. A contract allegedly implied Bradley could be influenced by the Executive - in other words, bought by me. I didn’t realise he was going that cheap - what an absurd proposition. On winning the election Clare Martin was quoted as saying:14

“We currently have got a court case of the CLP’s making that I think has done enormous damage to our judicial system and this is all of the CLP’s making. What I can only hope for all Territorians is that we resolve this issue and bring back the credibility of our judicial system as soon as possible’’.

The Federal and High Courts didn’t seem to think so and Clare never mentioned it again. The whole sorry saga is fully documented in Archives Documents. To cap matters off, in my somewhat ‘robust’ relationship with the profession in 1997 as Attorney General and First Law Officer in the NT, I received a Commission as Queen’s Counsel (QC).15 Now that really got them going.

Australia needs more Attorneys like Jarrod Bleijie and less managers of the status quo. Good on Premier Barry O’Farrell for his recent reforms and his proposed measures to deal with those found guilty of ‘‘the cowards punch’’.

4. Arts and Museums

Minister for Education and the Arts, Minister for the Arts (Fourth Perron Ministry 13 November 1990 to 29 November 1992. (From 20 December 1991 Minister for Employment and Training was renamed Minister for Education and Training and Arts became a Ministry in its own right), Minister for the Arts (Fifth Perron Ministry16 30 November 1992 to 15 September 1993), Minister for the Arts (Sixth Perron Ministry 16 September 1993 to 14 June 1994), Minister for the Arts (Seventh Perron Ministry 15 June 1994 to 17 July 1994), Minister for the Arts (Eighth Perron Ministry 16 July 1994 to 25 May 1995), Minister for the Arts (First Stone Ministry 26 May 1995 to 30 June 1995)

I served as Arts Minister in one guise or another from 13 November 1990 to 25 May 1995 – a little over four years. My passion for the Arts was on display from the moment I walked into the Assembly. In my Maiden Speech I observed17

‘’A community can be judged by the arts – whether in the design of its buildings, parks or gardens, whether in the visual or performing arts, all reflect the society in which we live. Despite our small population in the Territory, the arts are both dynamic and diverse’’.

In the CLP Cabinet there was keen competition to be the Arts Minister. The CLP had demonstrated a commitment to the Arts dating from before self Government. On becoming Chief Minister I reluctantly felt it was time to let the portfolio go to another of my colleagues.

Being the Arts Minister has to be one of the greatest free kicks in Government. With a small budget, a big dose of goodwill and genuine interest in the arts one had all the ingredients for a successful tenure. The CLP has a proud history of supporting the arts and museums. In the first CLP Government, Paul Everingham established the history awards; literature awards followed as did a number of other awards and grants to promote the sector. The Museum and Art Gallery at Bullocky Point opened in 1981 was the first public works project of the fledgling CLP Government led by Everingham. On my watch, the old Darwin Primary School ‘Frogs Hollow’ was turned over the to the arts community to promote visual arts. The Darwin Visual Arts Association celebrated their 30th Anniversary last year. If members wondered how they ended up at Frogs Hollow now they know. I also re-established the Deck Chair Theatre18 on a new site following the demolition of the old power house on the Darwin waterfront (see Archives Images).

Kormilda Students with their installation a triptych mural mounted in front of the projection box and Arts Minister Stone at the Deckchair Cinema 1 September 1995

The Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre (now known as Corrugated Iron Youth Arts) also received strong support. I recently discovered that the Darwin Theatre Company, long supported by successive CLP Governments, had closed down following the withdrawal of funding by the Henderson Labor Government. There was always an active engagement with the indigenous arts industry.19 I was not alone among my colleagues in ensuring that all of our overseas protocol gifts were indigenous art. Call on any Australian Embassy where a NT Minister has visited during the era of CLP Governments and indigenous art from the NT gifted to the Mission adorn the walls. I spoke regularly in the Legislative Assembly about our indigenous artists.20

I inherited the flamboyant Dr Colin Jack Hinton in his twilight years; to be fair he had made a substantial impact not only at the Museum but to the cultural fabric of the ‘Top End’ long before I arrived on the scene. I would occasionally run into him in the most improbable places in Indonesia to the booming accolade ‘’My Minister, my Minister’’. He was among those great characters who defined the NT in the early years. Both Sylvia Langford and Jackie Healey served Territorians well in their respective roles. Sylvia was well connected in the arts sector and regularly came to me with new initiatives; she had a mind for policy and the NT benefited from her considered strategy. I appointed Colin McDonald QC as Chairman at the museum and gave him a free hand. Colin wasn’t of my political colour but he was passionate and interested in the museum and that was good enough for me.

I was determined to bulldoze the Old Darwin Hospital site to ensure it was available for future development. One of the options, had I stayed around, was to commit to a cultural precinct that would include a new Territory museum. I still strongly support such land use for a majority of the land. Intensive urban development of apartments is not quite what I had envisaged however, I do accept that the NT taxpayer is entitled to make a substantial recovery on the site in which case the Giles Government might examine the very tasteful apartment developments that ring Kings Park overlooking Perth as a model. It is also time that Myilly point was freed up for further development - leaving prime land vacant in the current parlous financial circumstances of the NT budget is irresponsible.

People in the arts by their nature are creative, at times different, and socially connected. They don’t all vote for the ALP and the Greens. In my experience if you won their confidence they would back you politically. Sometimes that meant simply not campaigning against you on behalf of your political opponents. After I left the Assembly a number of the arts community expressed relief that come election time they could step out of the shadows. People in the arts tend not to be too caught up in material wealth and the like. They enjoy being entertained, entertaining and participating where they can. A thoughtfully devised arts grants program means everyone gets ‘a lick’ and on my watch they did.

Arts Minister Shane Stone opening the 24 Hour Art Gallery Parap in the presence of many of the NT arts luminaries at that time 24 October 1993

For the bigger ticket items like the Darwin Symphony Orchestra21 and the Darwin Theatre Company22 I was never backward in putting the ‘heavies‘ on those corporates who wanted something from me wearing another hat. When it came to large companies seeking to curry favour with my government the best way forward was to support projects in the arts and museums.23 At times the university was the recipient of such largess.24 I wasn’t much interested in large Australian and overseas companies mouthing the rhetoric of being a good corporate citizen, they needed to demonstrate they were.25 In the same way I demanded of companies doing business in the NT that they open a local office, buy local and create employment opportunities for Territorians; for me action spoke louder than words.

I spoke regularly in the Assembly on the Arts; for example my Ministerial Statement ‘Arts in the Northern Territory’26 (see Archives Documents). Also my Adjournment Debate contributions were populated by on ongoing commentary on the Arts and Museums over a ten year period.27 Where I could I promoted galleries throughout the Territory; if they were successful so were the artists.28 A highlight of my tenure as Arts Minister was to be Chairman of the Cultural Ministers Ministerial Council in 1994 (it was our turn).

10th Cultural Ministerial Council. Minister Stone Chairman for 1994 and host of the annual meeting. The Cultural Ministers Council was a sub committee of COAG. Darwin June 1994

When I was elected Chief Minister, I changed the Administrative Arrangements to pull Arts and Museums together as as single agency. This didn’t please everyone but I had long concluded that it made sense to have them as one. I also championed a range of initiatives for Territory women which are set out in detail in the chapter ‘the Chief’ under Women’s Policy.

At a personal level, I have long been a keen student of history and, as is evident from the website, a collector in the Asia Pacific region and North Asia. My home has many fine examples of carvings, ceramics, wall hangings and carpets. Indigenous art adorns my walls as do traditional oil paintings of the Australia bush I have collected over the decades. I recall a journalist from Fairfax media once mocked my collection in a profile piece she wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend Magazine - she described my Asian collection as largely ‘souvenirs’. Don’t you just love these people from Australia’s cultural hub Sydney? They have come such a long way from their penal colony origins in such a short time. On a more sensible note pity the family members that have to sort out all my collection when I’m gone.

5. Mines and Energy

Minister for Mines and Energy (Fifth Perron Ministry29 30 November 1992 to 15 September 1993)

I didn’t make a decent fist of the Mines portfolio, in retrospect. I served as Minister for a short time; less than 12 months. However, having had portfolio responsibility I incorporated them into the broader Asian strategy going forward. The regulatory aspect of the portfolio at times I found daunting. The Energy component excited me and was a catalyst for my very close attention to the oil and gas sector. I was fortunate having departmental officers like Bill Tinapple who taught me a great deal about oil and gas and accompanied numerous trade delegations. Ross Adler30 from Santos and Garry O’Meally31 from AGL were also helpful notwithstanding they had a vested interest in ensuring I had a grasp of the gas industry - at least their version of it. I also came into contact with some of the pioneers of the Territory Mining industry. Joe Fisher made it his business to educate me as a new Mines Minister and Geoff Stewart of North Flinders fame walked me through the industry; he took me underground to see the rich veins of gold of the Calli deposit32 in the Tanami Desert.33 I came to know Ed Notter34 of Alusuisse in Gove who added to my understanding of the bauxite and aluminium industry. I had a peripheral involvement in the McArthur River Mine project compared to Coulter and Perron notwithstanding I ultimately opened the mine with Prime Minister Keating.

The official opening of the Mt Todd Zappopan Mine came after my time in the portfolio but had it genesis dating from Barry Coulter. Notwithstanding, certain agreements were negotiated on my watch. The Mt Todd Agreement included the Jawoyn, Zapopan NL, Federal and Northern Territory Governments. Under that Agreement the Jawoyn allowed the extinguishment of Native Title rights to the mine area and the Werenbun-Barnjarn area in exchange for title to other lands, commitment on jobs and training and community infrastructure. As the first post-Mabo mining agreement the $1.5 billion gold mine proceeded and resulted in approximately 50 percent increase in Nitmiluk National Park.

That same year the Mirrkworlk Joint Venture (comprising a 25 percent Jawoyn equity stake) was established with the Henry Walker Group and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commercial Development Corporation (CDC) to successfully tender for a mine excavation contract at Mt. Todd. When the mine opened in 1994, 27 percent of the work force was indigenous. By 1996, Aboriginal employment at Mt Todd had reached 32 per cent. Although the mine would ultimately fold it was an impressive accomplishment given the different stake holders. Barry Coulter deserves most of the credit on Mt. Todd; his special relationship with the late Robert E Lee was an important and defining catalyst in delivering the project.

I have set out the background in some detail to make two points: first, Mt.Todd was one of a number of examples where the CLP worked collaboratively with indigenous Territorians to deliver economic outputs, jobs and land title. It is blatantly untrue to say that the CLP sought to frustrate and deny all claims by Territory Aboriginals. Second, whilst I applaud such initiatives as the Australian Employment Covenant and GenerationOne, the reality is that in the Territory for decades indigenous workers have populated our mines and other related activity. The Gumatj Corporation in Arnhem Land is one such example among many. It may not have been the case in Western Australia but in the NT we were well ahead in the game. Before any Commonwealth task force on indigenous employment or Advisory Council arrives on our doorstep to show us the way, it would be useful if they had all the facts at their fingertips.

The portfolio had no responsibility for the Power and Water Authority (PAWA) in my time. As the current Chairman of Energex in QLD my experience now tells me the delinking of Mines and Energy from Power and Water Authority was a mistake and not something I or any of my successors in office ever picked up on. In my assessment they are inextricably linked and having the same Minister responsible for both is sensible.

As matters turned out post my parliamentary career resources would overwhelmingly occupy my interest and such continues to this day. I have become a penny stock tragic investing in many startups that have led no-where. Despite my best efforts to assiduously avoid the ‘pump and dump’ merchants, I remain ever optimistic that one day someone will find Lasseter’s Reef35 and I’ll be there for the ride. To be frank I have had a few wins along the way. My relatively short time in Mines and Energy was not completely lost on me.

6. Ethnic Affairs – a commitment to Cultural Diversity

Minister for Ethnic Affairs (Sixth Perron Ministry 16 September 1993 to 14 June 1994), Minister for Ethnic Affairs (Seventh Perron Ministry 15 June 1994 to 17 July 1994), Minister for the Ethnic Affairs (Eighth Perron Ministry 16 July 1994 to 25 May 1995), Minister for Ethnic Affairs (First Stone Ministry 26 May 1995 to 30 June 1995), Minister for Ethnic Affairs (Second Stone Ministry 1 July 1995 to 20 June 1996)

We are one, but we are many And from all the lands on earth we come We share a dream and sing with one voice: I am, you are, we are Australian.36

I served as Minister for Ethnic Affairs from 16 September 1993 to 20 June 1996; approximately three years and enjoyed every minute of it. Ethnic Affairs is a good news portfolio. Like Arts, it was a ministry keenly sought after by others and it was time for me to hand it over when elected as Chief Minister.

I followed in the footsteps of Paul Everingham and Steve Hatton in leading a delegation to Greece, principally to Kalymnos in the Greek Dodecanese. I added Cyprus to the itinerary after intensive lobbying by our Territory Cypriot community. The NT Greek population is majority Kalymnian; it is claimed that Darwin is one of the largest Kalymnian communities outside of Greece.

First Chief Minister Paul Everingham declaring open Darwin Street Pothia Kalymnos circa 1980

Smaller groups living in the NT come from Kos, Rhodes and Crete. There is also a sizable well organised Cypriot community who had endorsed my candidature for Port Darwin very early on - the Kyriacou family headed up by patriarch Barney. The earliest Greeks to Darwin came from Castellorizo and are known locally as ‘Cassies’. They are counted among ‘old Darwin’ and include the Paspaleys, Paspalis, Canaris and Liveris families to name some.

The Chinese rival the Greeks - the family name Chin is as prominent as Smith. Some Territory Chinese can trace their families back four to five generations.37

Members of the Chin Family Darwin with portrait of Granny Lum Loy left to right Amanda Carriera nee Griffiths, Heather Chin, Teresa Chin, Ron Chin, Rosemary aka Rosie Griffiths nee Chin, Shane Stone, Brad Griffiths and Basil Chin circa 1992

The Chinese pre-date the Greeks. The Territory Chinese community has played a important role in building the economic fabric of the NT economy. My Adjournment Debate speeches often featured our Chinese families and I was pleased when in Government and as the Member for Port Darwin to financially support the Chung Wah Society.

Ethnic diversity within one nation trumps multiculturalism

My involvement in the ethnic communities of the NT has always figured prominently in my public and private life. This would have come as no surprise to those familiar with my background growing up in Wodonga. I was passionate about the portfolio and enjoyed every minute of it. We had a very successful office of Ethnic Affairs headed by Janecian Price a most capable career public servant who had spent time on the Ministerial staff of Barry Coulter. Janecian got the politics and knew how to deliver on CLP Government programs to best effect.

My undergraduate studies at the Australian National University were critically important to my understanding of the dynamics that define Australia; the values we cherish and what matters. People might dismiss the study of sociology and anthropology as a waste of time but, for me, I learned about context. Culture is everything we have think and do. We add to it, enhance it, remould it and live by it. Australia is a lucky country as we have progressively set about building a culture from the ground up drawing from the successive waves of immigration. We Australians don’t have to grapple with hundreds of years of customs, traditions, prejudices and superstitions; we might be a cultural hotpotch but everyone gets to add something to the narrative. Diversity is the key – a single house with a monolithic brand - Aussie - accommodating many brands. Not what the multicultural proponents want – many brands and many houses. Hence when I became Minister for Ethnic affairs it wasn’t just another job; it was a challenge to drive home the message that we are one even though we may be many, we are Australian – it was an opportunity to articulate what I had long believed and I grabbed it with both hands.

What follows may surprise some. Before journalists and the commentariat run away with the headline ‘Stone against multiculturalism, Muslim immigration and SBS’ read my thesis.

I have never supported multiculturalism. Some readers will find this a challenging statement. I believed in recognizing and respecting cultural diversity within the framework of one Australia - one nation. A country where Australian values prevail, English is the first language and Judeo Christian principles define our institutions underpinned by our British heritage.38 To be clear, the embrace of Judeo Christian traditions is so broad they capture all faiths and ethnicity in an otherwise largely secular society. Fundamental principles of freedom, tolerance, ‘fair go’ and rule of law are guaranteed in Australia because of our Judeo Christian principles dating from our British heritage.

Some people will find my views on multiculturalism a confronting and contradictory position, particularly those who understand my immersion in ethnic communities from childhood. To understand my background is to understand my views on multiculturalism which I consider one of the great ‘cons’ ever perpetrated on the Australian people; more so our new arrivals.

My background, taken with the persuasive arguments of the late Frank Knopfelmacher and the writings of that great Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey, have shaped my views. Blainey opined that:39

Multiculturalism “emphasize(s) the rights of ethnic minorities at the expense of the majority of Australians”

Blainey is right. That has not stopped me being a champion of the ethnic communities and supporting them in every way I could. I simply asked that they be ‘Aussies’ first and surprise, surprise the vast majority were and are of like mind.

First my background; as a child I was immersed in the cultural diversity of my friends and neighbours on the Wodonga Housing Commission estate. My father Les Stone, as a teacher had a strong network in the local migrant community. He taught night school English as a second language and served as the Wodonga President of the Good Neighbour Council.

Les Stone President of the Wodonga Good Neighbour Council circa 1967

Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre, otherwise known as the Bonegilla Camp, was originally set up as a transit camp for WWII refugees. It was a home to many ‘new Australians’.

A number found work on the Snowy Mountain Scheme and related infrastructure projects including my future father in law Miroslav aka Miro Novak. My dad had a long history of helping new immigrants with language and settling them into their new environs. As the Head Teacher of Cornishtown Rural School, he travelled regularly to the All Saint’s Vineyard at Wahgunyah at the invitation of the Sutherland-Smith Family to tutor the Italian vineyard workers. Our family was imbued with a very mixed European culture (German, Italian and Sicilian, Croatian, Dutch, Ukrainian, Polish, Dutch, Belgian and Serbian to name the predominate groupings). Home made wine, sausages and salami made in a neighbours backyard were the norm.

My father, on occasion, adjudicated disputes in migrant families suspicious of the Australian legal system; many had come from countries where the judicial system had been completely compromised and corrupted. Dad was proficient in a number of languages including Italian; he was in his own way the local ‘counselari’ and his decisions and adjudication carried weight and prestige. The same people turned to him for help in framing tenders and correspondence; illiterate in their own language let alone English they were entirely dependent on his help and guidance. My childhood experience with migrants and refugees impacted positively on my later political roles; I observed first hand my mum and dad reach out to the new arrivals welcoming them into the broader Australian community.

The Les Stone Park in Wodonga West is where new citizens swear the oath of allegiance on Australia Day. They are reminded of a civic leader who welcomed all, worked closely with migrant families and made a virtue of cultural diversity in building a new Australia.

Pathway through the Les Stone Park Wodonga established 1975. See Archives for further images

Josephine’s mother was born in Splitz Croatia and her father Miro in Lublunya Slovenia; both were refugees from WWII and came through the Bonegilla Camp. Miroslav Novak was a young man in search of a new country; Anna a teenager her family having fled the advancing ‘Red’ Army in Yugoslavia before being gathered up in Italy for Australia. Our children, Jack and Madeleine, are well aware of their eastern European heritage; also their respective God-parents include Australians of Chinese, Sicilian and Greek heritage.

Against that background, I long ago formed a view on multiculturalism, the policy and the consequences. There are two arms to my criticism - the first that multiculturalism is a half-baked policy set up to excuse those who refuse to embrace our values and Australia as home. It’s code for ‘you don’t need to fit in’- countries within a country is the consequence. The second leg of my criticism centres on the attempted cynical manipulation of ethnic groups by the Australian Labor Party for base political reasons. They almost got away with it. Wedging the conservatives as anti-migrant; forming up ethnic based branches to capture the vote; arguing against borders and implementing policies that facilitated entry to those more inclined to vote Labor (take your pick - protection visas, family reunion). No greater proof needed than the revelation of the email traffic between the Grand Mufti of Australia and ALP Headquarters.40 Labor tried to explain it away by drawing a comparison with B.A Santamaria and Archbishop Daniel Mannix. That’s stretching the imagination - last century and over 50 years ago.

Labor almost got away with it - the ‘Trojan horse’ of ethnic division for political reasons. The number of migrants and their offspring who have aligned with the conservative side bears witness to Labor’s failure to manipulate ethnic policy and to use the myth of ‘multiculturalism’ to wedge the conservative side of politics in Australia. In the UK, Labor has been spectacularly successful.

Chief Minister Stone 'turning the sod' on the Filipino Community Centre site Marrara Darwin circa 1996

To return to my central thesis, I believe Australia should welcome cultural diversity but never at the expense of Australian values, Judeo Christian principles and the British heritage that underpins our institutions. That means having a say as to who comes in. Those who argue open borders - the ‘multicultural’ cheer squad - would allow unrestricted entry into our country. I have always strongly supported the proper vetting of those claiming refugee status including their necessary detention and repatriation if found not suitable. ‘Not suitable’ includes people who advocate sharia law over the Australian legal system; seek to continue in Australia the ongoing conflict from their home countries; travel abroad to fight in armed conflicts; refuse to learn English and otherwise refuse to integrate. I give the Irish their due in Australia, unlike in the USA our Irish community largely left ‘the troubles’ behind.

To keep my comments in context because there will be no shortage of those who will try to take them out of context, Territory history records I was at the forefront of assisting the Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim communities improve their community facilities and places of worship.

The Darwin mosque, through their community centre, was the recipient of significant financial support from my Government. When the mosque re-opened after refurbishment I presented a set of replica doors of Mecca to mark the occasion. I also gave similar support to Christian and Orthodox communities.

Chief Minister Stone and Minister Eric Poole meeting the NT Islamic Council Parliament House Darwin 25 August 1995

I wanted the Territory to embrace and celebrate its diversity; I did not want diversity to be a point of division and disharmony within the Territory. I am that same person today as I was back then. When others promoted formalizing a ‘Chinatown’ in Darwin it was the Chinese community who pushed back - they were Australians and Territorians with a Chinese heritage in that order. As proud as they were of their heritage, they refused to be singled out as foremost Chinese.

Medallion of Life Member Greek Orthodox Community of NT conferred on Chief Minister Stone 25 August 1997

The Chinese community refused to be ‘boxed’ up and defined by a Darwin City precinct. Their contribution to the NT over the generations transcended a restaurant strip - how insulting. They were right. Darwin remains one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Australia because of successive sound policy and planning principally by CLP Governments. Our embrace of the Territory’s ethnic communities; our assistance in building community halls and centres of multi-faith worship all contributed to a genuine sense of engagement that has not been forgotten and was often acknowledged. I was very honoured to be made a Life member of the Greek Orthodox Community of Northern Australia, the Kalymnian Brotherhood and Cypriot Community of Darwin. I was conferred an honorary citizen of Kalymnos in the Greek Dodecanese Pothia in 1995 during an Official visit41 that is fully documented on the website (see Archives Documents and Images).

Medallion of Honorary Citizen of Kalymnos conferred in Pathos Kalymnos Greece 12 September 1995

I continue as the Patron of the Italian Club of Darwin. In 1999, I was awarded the ALKI Award by the Justice for Cyprus Committee. In recognition of support for the Orthodox and Coptic faiths I have been conferred a Knight Grand Cordon of the Order of the Ethiopian Lion by the Ethiopian Crown Council. Such accolades and awards I always saw as positive reinforcement of my policies. I never made a big deal of the awards, as media at that time will confirm. I was quietly appreciative and ensured that the communities concerned understood that the CLP valued the acknowledgements. Not only in the NT, but Australia wide, the ethnic communities have played an important role in defining our unique Australian culture crafted in the context of our British heritage cognizant of the first people to inhabit this continent - indigenous Australians. The NT Coat of Arms makes that connection unambiguous (see Archives Images).

I spoke regularly in the Assembly about the ethnic communities42. I was always quick to remind the policy makers that Darwin was built by refugees who left a lasting positive legacy and, as in the past, Northern Australia should be the beneficiary of more generous quotas to encourage growth and security in our region.

Boat people

The issue of boat people was topical in my time in Government as it was before me; our Vietnamese community in the Territory is part of that legacy. If I might provide some context to what is now one of Australia’s greatest challenges and offer a commentary on where we find ourselves. The real irony is that one lot of boat people complained about the next boat load; it was ever so. Arguably, the first boat people to Australia were the Macassans who plied the northern shores of Australia for centuries in pursuit of trepan (sea slug). They stayed awhile, trading and fraternising with local Aborigine tribes long before a French, English or Portuguese ship passed by. They sailed from the eastern islands of Indonesia with the north west monsoon and returned on the prevailing south easterly trade winds with the change of season. It’s a well-worn path to this day. Not to be outdone, Chinese President Hu Jing Tao claimed in his 2003 address to the Australian Parliament that the Chinese fleet of Ming Emperor Zhu Di under Admiral Zheng had reached Australia.

The legendary Captain James Cook came, saw and claimed the eastern coastline of Terra Australis for the Crown in 1770. He was a bit late in the day but at least the English did more than kick the tyres; those of us who value the Westminster system and accompanying British institutions are most appreciative. 18 years later ‘my lot’ on the maternal side came arrived 1788 on the First Fleet in chains, refugees from Olde England keen to empty its jails and settle colonies far away on the other side of the world - they weren’t going back. Whitehall had crafted its migration policy in the wake of the loss of the American colonies. South Africa was not ready or prepared for a convict settlement so it was off to Botany Bay. Generations on and they are still coming. Why then the resistance of Australians today after successive waves of migration upon which Australia is built? We know our history, we value our diversity and we recognize that many of our ‘nation building projects’, such as the Snowy Mountain Scheme, was built by the labour of post WWII migrants. One in two Australians is either a migrant, or a child or grandchild of a migrant. We are a Nation of immigration yet the vast majority bristle angrily at what they observe on their TV news as successive boats breach our borders.

What’s changed? Arguably, there has always been some resistance to the next wave be it on the grounds of race or religion. Australian history is littered with examples of discrimination, and hostility. It started early on; the convicts felt they were discriminated against in favour of the local Aborigine tribes by Governor Phillip. The Irish wore it from the English free settlers and being Catholic or Jewish didn’t help one’s prospects before and during the Great Depression. The story of the Kanakas remains a shameful chapter in our Colonial history. The White Australia policy and the intransigence of the trade union movement against foreign workers are not exactly our finest moments.

The circumstances of people torn apart by war, religious and ethnic persecution cut to the heart of every caring person I know. Put yourself in their position. If it was your family you would do whatever it took to protect, defend and save them. The despair of those in refugee camps in a third world country is obvious and confronting. I support Australia taking more refugees on humanitarian grounds properly assessed and processed, always have - on our terms. This has long been my position evidenced by support as Minister and Chief Minister for Refugee Week in the NT (see Archives Images) and my various speeches in the Legislative Assembly.43 But herein lies the problems and it is largely of the previous Labor Governments making - they created an environment conducive to one of the most evil trades on offer, people smuggling. Their role and bungling will be recorded as one of those shameful chapters in Australia’s history. Labor managed this outcome with encouragement from the Greens. The recent overturning of the abolition of Temporary Protection Visa’s by the ALP and the Greens in the Senate confirms the very culpability referred to above.

Australia is a generous nation when it comes to immigration yet we are torn asunder by the unannounced arrivals of boats. As we Australians say, it is a barbeque stopper; a topic of conversation up there with the local footy or next fishing trip; these unannounced arrivals who pay the people smugglers to get them to Australia. Depending on where you sit in the discussion, they are either political refugees and asylum seekers or queue jumpers and illegal immigrants. The country has been galvanized by the issue and most have an opinion.

Australians know how to count and the numbers tell a sorry story of failed policy and ineptitude on a grand scale. It is hard to argue that the Howard Government policies didn’t work on the numbers; in eleven years, 190 boats thereabouts arrived on John Howard watch, he had the measure of the people smugglers. The Labor Governments of Rudd, then Gillard, thought better as they pandered to the special interest groups who had derided Howard’s policies as cruel and inhumane. In 2008, Labor wound back and abolished Howard’s successful legislation aided by the Greens. The numbers under Labor speak volumes. Since August 2008, 11,553 people aboard 230 boats in less than 4 years made the journey – the numbers lost at sea we don’t know. Refugee advocates argue that in reality the numbers are small magnified only by the TV coverage and tragic events involving loss of life as people attempt the perilous journey. Many who arrive this way end up staying giving encouragement to others including family members and friends desperate to try the same. This revelation in itself strikes at the heart of the former Labor Government’s bona fides on the issue. News that the perpetrators who set alight the apprehended vessel (SIEV 221) killing 5 people were all granted permanent visas was greeted by public disbelief.

There is no doubt that the people smugglers had the Gillard Government’s measure and before that, Rudd. Arguments abound that regardless, the new arrivals will add to our continuing cultural diversity and contribute to our labour skills shortage. A hard argument to maintain when the figures suggest that up to 80 percent resort to welfare and only 1 in 3 have managed to find a job inside of five years. Others plead the case for Australia to live up to its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention; after all we are a rich country and should be more generous, say some. On the other side of the ledger, many Australian’s not unreasonably ask who are these people? It’s hard to determine at times when passports and travel documents are deliberately destroyed and people refuse to co-operate in establishing their identity. What we do know is by their actions, a number deliberately destroy vessels causing death and jeopardize the safety of women and children in their determination to reach Australia.

We shouldn’t confuse criminal behaviour with desperation. Others resort to riots and destruction of property at detention centres when they can’t get their own way. Are these the kind of people we want living in our neighbourhood? Add to that the calls for the introduction of sharia law and a concerted, deliberate campaign by some groups not to integrate into Australia and who openly disavow diversity - no wonder your average Aussie bristles at the very thought of more arrivals they know nothing about. Australia has not suffered a 7 July type attack on home soil but it hasn’t been through want of trying by some. We watched in horror as the Bali Bombing was reported and the attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta executed by extremist Islamist elements unfolded. All adds to the grist of people stereotyping others. Some might argue that these are irrational fears driven by ignorance. That sentiment flies in the face of the way many Australian communities embrace and assist new arrivals who have followed the process and abide the rules that we as a country have laid down.

We have good reasons to be careful with our immigration program ranging from head line issues of quarantine, health, security and preserving and defending an Australian life style that is the envy of many. It’s hard to reconcile with newcomers who have the stated aim of dismantling the Australian way of life; who oppose western culture and institutions that promote democracy, equality, freedom of religion, tolerance and rule of law. The most disadvantaged in all this conundrum remain those patiently waiting their turn to migrate to Australia, observing the process and playing by the rules. Little wonder that some of these same people succumb to the people smugglers. Recent figures that our regular immigration intake is at its lowest level in years further confuses the picture as does the increased number applying from Afghanistan. After all isn’t that why we were fighting and dying there, to make that country safe? We have an acute skills shortage which we must address but that entails a selective intake balanced against a humanitarian quota which most Australian are sympathetic towards. It’s not as simple as:

“go back to where you came from”

However, the vast majority of Australians demand that the boats be stopped and in this respect the Abbott Coalition Government has been spectacularly successful. What reminds mildly entertaining is the way Federal Labor try to pretend they have been part of the solution, wrong - they caused the problem. We are happy to share but on our terms; as was once said by Prime Minister John W Howard 6 December 2001:

“We will decide who comes into this country and on what terms”

In the meantime, I strongly favour our Federal Government ramping up our refugee intake and further enhancing our skilled migrant and investor intakes - on our terms.

Big Australia - yes

In conclusion, I have consistently supported ‘a big Australia’. Those who argue on environmental grounds that Australia cannot support a larger population are wrong. I say Look north and mandate where people must first settle for a period. I have always promoted a more generous and proactive approach to refugee quotas far in excess than is currently the case with a predisposition towards Asia and countries where English is predominantly spoken.

I applaud Australian Government initiatives to encourage inward investment in exchange for citizenship subject to those applicants meeting the appropriate tests and scrutiny. As a nation we are absolutely kidding ourselves if we believe that we can continue on our merry way on this vast continent of ours with a small population. In 50 to 100 years when people movement will have grown at a frantic pace do we really believe that we can simple hold up our hand and scream ‘STOP’. As a country it is time we had a sensible conversation about population growth, on what terms and how. Australia needs to get ahead of the game and fast.

SBS

On 1 January 2015 SBS will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its foundation. Established in another era for a purpose now long over taken by accessible and available multimedia SBS’s use by date has well and truly arrived. Ethnic based community radio has long filled the void and any suggestion that there is scant content available for Australia’s migrants is simply untrue – take your pick - cable, satellite and the internet. The cost to the taxpayer in 2012 - 2013 was $247 million and, given the current budget crisis, an annual saving of a quarter of a billion dollars annually warrants closer examination.

Instead of an hysterical response from the usual suspects, the ethnic community leadership in Australia would do itself a big favour by joining in the conversation about the future of SBS. A sensible response would be to agitate for a greater range of Federal grants direct to community organisations who are in my experience effective and prudent managers of such funds to best effect.

Ethnic Communities and the CLP

The key to the CLP continuing electoral success in the NT remains the northern suburbs where the vote turns on the public service and ethnic communities.

There is little doubt that the 2001 CLP defeat was directly attributable to Burke’s decision to preference One Nation in selected seats.44 The northern suburb electorates dominated by the ethnic communities predictably abandoned the CLP in droves. It was a flawed and ill-informed strategy that flew in the face of past CLP commitments to always put One Nation last.45 There remains an estrangement between the CLP and the ethnic communities that persist to this day part evidenced by the failure of the CLP to win from the ALP in the Northern suburbs a single seat in the 2012 election. That result was compounded by a successful scare campaign that targeted public sector employees.

The challenge for the CLP and Giles Government is to reverse the ALP grip on those communities. Terry Mills had made considerable inroads on that front and in 2012 his personal intervention secured Fong Lim for the CLP and the return of Dave Tollner. Unfortunately, Johnston stayed beyond CLP reach and as long as Kon Vatskalis remains in the Parliament, Casuarina will be hard to win. To be frank, it is going to require a concerted effort by the CLP to win back the trust of the ethnic communities and to get to know the next generation.

COAG and Ministerial Councils

Quoting almost verbatim from the Government website, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia. The members of COAG are the Prime Minister, State and Territory Premiers and Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association.

COAG is supported by inter-jurisdictional, ministerial-level Councils that facilitate consultation and cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories in specific policy areas. Together, these Councils constitute the CAOG Council System. COAG Councils pursue and monitor priority issues of national significance and take joint action to resolve issues that arise between governments. Councils also develop policy reforms for consideration by COAG and oversee the implementation of policy reforms agreed by COAG. It all sounds pretty good and ever so occasionally a consensus is achieved and actions follow. I can recall four such examples: National firearms reforms; Australian National Training Authority (ANTA);46 the introduction of the GST and the 10 Point Plan to manage Native Title Claims. Meetings were otherwise a talk fest but not unhelpful in learning what was happening in other jurisdictions including New Zealand and PNG. I found the Education, Arts. Ethnic Affairs and Trade Ministerial Council meetings informative and helpful; Bob McMullin skilfully negotiated the Team Australia on the margins of the Trade Ministers Council with help from Phil Gude of Victoria and I. As Australians we had to stop ‘bagging’ each other offshore; pay respect to the efforts of our Missions and Austrade and work collaboratively when we could.

Marshall Perron didn’t share my perspective and, in exasperation, once observed that the problem with most Ministerial Councils was that you could go away from the portfolio for a decade and when you came back round they were still working off the same agenda. He had been a Minister almost twenty years so I had to defer to his experience. The agenda for Attorneys General certainly had that feel about it; for years a national defamation proposal had languished on the notice paper. There were numerous other examples I could quote and in the case of some they remain irreconcilable

Putting all the doubts and disappointments to one side, I never lost sight of the fact that we are a Federation. The States created the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth created the Territories. The opportunity to participate with others of similar responsibilities were on most occasions conducive to good Government – particularly so when the politics ‘was left at the door’. I never ceased to be pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the ability of my fellow Australians across the political divide to have an open discussion on what was in the national interest balanced against the competing demands of their respective jurisdictions. Australians see the ‘knock ‘em down and drag ‘em out’ performance in question time but rarely get a glimpse of the attempted co-operative Federalism that helps keep us together as one country.

Later in COAG, I found that I could achieve real out puts for the Territory and regularly did so often to the chagrin of some of my interstate colleagues. When Jeff Kennett led a walkout from COAG on Howard’s watch the Treasury Secretary Ted Evans sitting next to me inquired of my intentions as others gathered up their papers and filed out the Cabinet door. ‘’Staying put’’ I replied. Ted smiled and nodded approvingly. The NT did very nicely that year; Kennett’s angry repost on re-joining the meeting was “you bastard” - I could only but agree. On another occasion during Keating’s term as Prime Minister, as we sat down at the COAG meeting, Keating started to distribute the communique before we started. Kennett read the statement and exclaimed “This is a lie”. Keating responded “It’s only a draft lie”.

Premier Jim Bacon from Tasmania paid me the ultimate accolade when he attended his first COAG meeting, my last – he sidled up and whispered Tony Rundle told him to stay close and ignore everyone else. Jim had vanquished Tony’s Liberal Government in the State election but he left his politics at the door to get the best deal he could out of the Howard Government for Tasmania which was drowning in debt. COAG was instructive, at times funny and when Keating presided highly entertaining. He really hated the States and his brief one month stint as Minister for the Northern Territory in the dying days of the Whitlam Government had clearly cemented his view about us.

I need to draw this chapter to a close as I am starting to intrude on the next that deals with my time as Chief Minister. in conclusion, it was a very exciting, at times challenging and personally fulfilling period of my life to serve as a Minister. I had a ‘swing’, and my colleagues and I changed the NT for the better - that was our legacy.

  1. As Chief Minister I launched Cameron Thompsons successful campaign in Kingaroy against Pauline Hanson

  2. Hon Tom Harris was the CLP Member for Port Darwin from 1977 to 1990. He served as Minister for Education in the Eighth Everingham Ministry (13 December 1983 - 16 October 1984) and the First, Second and Third Tuxworth Ministries (17 October 1984 – 24 April 1986); Minister for Health and Minister for Housing Fourth Tuxworth Ministry (29 April 1986 – 14 May 1986); Minister for Labour and Administrative Services in the Second Hatton Ministry (15 May 1986 – 18 March 1987; he resigned from Ministry 30 April 1987 following comments made about PNG). Later he was restored to the Ministry and served as Minister for Education and Minister Assisting the Chief Minister on Constitutional Development (6 April 1988 – 13 July 1988); he served as Minister for Education and Minister Assisting the Chief Minister on Constitutional Development in the Third Perron Ministry (4 September 1989 – 12 November 1990). Harris served as a Minister notwithstanding he was no longer a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly between following the 1990 General Election from 27 October 1990 to 12 November 1990. Tom Harris retired undefeated following a distinguished parliamentary and Ministerial career to make way for me. He played a critically important role in securing post-secondary education for the NT including the foundation of the Northern Territory University now Charles Darwin University

  3. Guestroom - Chris Makepeace 3 December 2012. In the promo the the ABC couldn’t help themselves with the statement ‘’he was a political advisor to the likes of Shane Stone’’. I’m note sure what I am meant to make of ‘‘the likes of’’; see also Archives Audio or ABC Guestroom Chris Makepeace

  4. As Chief Minister I launched Cameron Thompsons successful campaign in Kingaroy against Pauline Hanson

  5. As was evident from my Maiden Speech I intended to be a champion of the education sector. See Northern Territory of Australia Legislative Assembly Sixth Assembly First Session Parliamentary Record (Hansard) Tuesday 4 December 1990 p.44 ‘’Teaching remains one of the highest professions to which one can be called as it embraces the weighty responsibility of the formation of young minds and their translation to the wider community’’

  6. Former Senior Judge of the Family Court from its establishment in 1976. Acting Chief Judge of the Family Court from 1985 – 1986. He was appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory on 14 April 1986 and was appointed as Chief Justice on 17 August 1987 and served as Administrator

  7. I later acknowledged Jan Heaslip OAM in the Legislative Assembly Seventh Assembly First Session 27/06/1994 Parliamentary Record No:1 Subject: Adjournment debate Date: 30/06/1994 p. 497

  8. In 1979 I was appointed the Executive Assistant to the then Honourable Justice Austin Asche SJ (deputy Chief Judge of the Family Court of Australia) who completed an Inquiry into Teacher Education in Victoria. This Report touched on the importance and flexibility of teachers being able to seamlessly move down the pathway of upgrading qualifications without the usual roadblocks. Stone carried that lesson with him to the NT 2

  9. Sixth Assembly First Session 01/10/1991 Parliamentary Record No: 5 ‘Politically-Driven Inequities In The Commonwealth Disadvantaged Schools Program’. Ministerial Statement. pp.2030 - 2034

  10. For example see Seventh Assembly First Session 11/26/1996 Parliamentary Record No: 29 27 November 1996 Adjournment Debate ‘Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management’ (Accredited by Griffith University) p.10331; see also Archives Images

  11. Former Director General ASIO, Justice of the Industrial Court and thereafter Federal Court with Commissions in the NT and ACT; famed champion of Aboriginal Land Rights arising from his appearance in the landmark Nabalco case 1968-71. He was the Inaugural Aboriginal Land Rights Commissioner. I wrote the Obituary ‘A Remarkable Journey of an Inquiring Mind’ published NT News 1 May 2010

  12. A role I have continued to play through my work in conjunction with the Federal Liberal Party supported by the International Fund post politics

  13. For a reflection on this legal reform refer NT News Saturday Extra ‘Crime and Punishment’ 15 Jan 2001 pp. 19, 20 & 23

  14. ABC 7.30 Report ‘Chief magistrate first obstacle for new NT government’ Reporter: Murray McLaughlin 23 August 2001

  15. Contrary to urban myth the appointment was made by Cabinet and the Executive Council in my absence as evidenced by Executive Council papers - I never appointed myself. The Protocol for Appointment was observed. See Mildren J ‘A short history of the bar in the Northern Territory’ (2001) 21 Australian Bar Review 81 subsequently republished to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the Supreme Court of the NT; see also Mildren J ‘All Same Judge - A History of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory’. Federation Press May 2011; Mildren J observed ‘there was some precedent for the appointment of an attorney-general elsewhere, particularly upon retirement from politics’. Mildren claimed the NT profession was ‘horrified’ by the Appointment. Attorneys General who have taken ‘silk’ included Vernon Wilcox in 1975 (AG Victoria 1973 -1976); Peter Foss in 1998 (AG WA 1996 – 2001); Jim Kennan in 1987 (AG Victoria 1983 -1992); Peter Collins in 1991 (AG NSW 1991 - 1992); Frank Walker in 1981 (AG NSW 1976 - 1983) and Gareth Evans in 1983 (AG Commonwealth 1983 - 1984) to name some

  16. NT Government Gazette S62 30.11.92

  17. Northern Territory of Australia Legislative Assembly Sixth Assembly First Session Parliamentary Record (Hansard) Tuesday 4 December 1990 p.45

  18. Seventh Assembly First Session 10/10/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 15 12 October 1995 Adjournment Debate Deck Chair Theatre Opening Kormilda Mural p. 5225

  19. National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA) established in 1984 under a Everingham CLP Government; sponsored by Shell and from 1992 on my watch by Telstra, now in its 30th year, and the 22nd year of its sponsorship by Telstra

  20. For example see speech on the Third National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Art Awards Seventh Assembly First Session 14/05/1996 Parliamentary Record No: 21 Subject: Adjournment debate Date: 16/05/1996

  21. Seventh Assembly First Session 11/21/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 17 22 November 1995 Adjournment Debate Darwin Symphony Orchestra pp. 5787

  22. I worked collaboratively with the DTC Board to secure Government support and commercial sponsorships which included Santos and AGL. DTC has a tradition of making innovative use of a range of venues, such as Fannie Bay Gaol, the Old Town Hall Ruins, the East Point gun turret, the Powerhouse Arena and the Botanic Gardens Amphitheatre, as well as the more traditional theatre spaces, including Browns Mart Community Theatre and the Darwin Entertainment Centre

  23. For example the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA) referred to above

  24. For example International House Charles Darwin University part funded by North Flinders Mines

  25. For example see Seventh Assembly First Session 08/13/1996 Parliamentary Record No: 23 15 August 1996 Adjournment Debate Shell Aboriginal Art Foundation announced by Chairman of Shell Dr. Roland Williams. I agreed to become the Co Patron - annual grant of $20,000 pp. 8056-8057

  26. Seventh Assembly First Session 08/30/1994 Parliamentary Record No: 3 (Ministerial Statement) NT HANSARD pp. 885-916

  27. For example see Seventh Assembly First Session 11/19/1996 Parliamentary Record No: 28 19 November 1996 Adjournment Debate Alice Springs Arts Foundation and 1996 Alice Prize judged by Edmund Capon NSW Gallery pp. 9830 - 9831; also Seventh Assembly First Session 10/17/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 16 18 November 1995 Adjournment Debate Dinah Beach Maritime Arts Exhibition p. 5448; and Seventh Assembly First Session 11/21/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 17 22 November 1995 Adjournment Debate 1995 Alice Prize Exhibition & Alice Springs Arts Foundation pp. 5778-5779

  28. For example see Seventh Assembly First Session 11/21/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 17 23 November 1995 Adjournment Debate Framed Gallery p. 6051

  29. NT Government Gazette S62 30.11.92

  30. Ross Adler AC was Chief Executive Officer of Santos Ltd from 1984 to 2000

  31. Garry O’Meally was general manager of AGL Gas Companies and later of AGL Petroleum. He was also general manager of Queensland and Northern Territory for Santos Limited

  32. Callie–Dead Bullock Soak

  33. 3 million ounce Callie gold deposit transformed the Northern Territory’s Tanami region. It was the first gold mine in Australia that has been developed with the consent of the Aboriginal traditional owners

  34. Ed Notter had a long and distinguished career in the aluminium Industry in Australia, Germany and Switzerland. He is best known for his involvement in the development and management of the Gove bauxite and alumina plant in the Northern Territory. He was the former CEO of Swiss Aluminium Australia and Chairman of Nabalco as well as the Gove Joint Venture

  35. Lasseter’s Reef refers to the purported discovery by Harold Bell Lasseter in 1929 of a fabulously rich gold deposit in a remote corner of central Australia near the Western Australian border

  36. “I am Australian” (also known as We are Australian) which was written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley of The Seekers and Dobe Newton of The Bushwackers

  37. I spoke regularly about our Territory Chinese community, families and individuals in the Legislative Assembly. For example see Seventh Assembly First Session 21/02/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 8 Subject: Adjournment debate Date: 22/02/1995 pp 2612 – 2616

  38. Recent attempts by some commentators to debunk the existence of Judeo Christian principles as the foundation of Australia society have fallen flat Guardian website

  39. Blainey, G. (1984) ‘All For Australia’ North Ryde, NSW Methuen Haynes

  40. Australian Financial Review ‘Grand Mufti threatened Labor over Israel ‘bias’ 23 September 2013; Australian Financial Review website link

  41. Seventh Assembly First Session 10/10/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 15 10 October 1995 Adjournment Debate Official Visit to Greece pp. 5054 – 5057

  42. For example see Eighth Assembly First Session 02/17/1998 Parliamentary Record No:3 17 February 1998 Adjournment Debate NT Ethnic Communities Council pp. 584-585

  43. For example see Seventh Assembly First Session 27/06/1994 Parliamentary Record No: 1 Subject : Adjournment debate Date : 30/06/1994 p.500

  44. ABC PM Archives NT Election Denis Burke Interview 13 August 2001

  45. Attempts by CLP strategists to later claim that the ALP had ‘push polled’ ethnic communities were of little consequence given Burkes recorded interview

  46. All credit to John Dawkins for his perseverance and determination to secure a national agreement


Next: Chapter 11: Asian Engagement - 1000 Shane Stones and Marshall Perrons